Finalists Cash In on Clutch Performances

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

June 14, 2018

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

EAST LANSING – Oli Carmody had been in pressure situations before, but nothing compared to what confronted the sophomore from Stevensville Lakeshore on Thursday.

With one out in a scoreless game, Carmody relieved Logan Morrow with runners on first and second base in the bottom of the ninth inning. Carmody went to 3-0 on Orchard Lake St. Mary’s leadoff hitter before retiring him on a fly to center. He got the next batter on a fly out to end the inning, and then singled in Lakeshore’s first run of a three-run 10th as the Lancers held on to defeat St. Mary’s 3-0 in a Division 2 Semifinal at Michigan State’s McLane Stadium.

Back in November, Carmody – playing his first season as goalkeeper on the soccer team – made a diving stop of a penalty kick to give Lakeshore a 2-1 victory over Plainwell in a Division 2 Regional Semifinal.

When asked which game held more importance, Carmody gave a quick response.

“It’s not even close,” he said. “Baseball is my life. This was the greatest experience of my life.

“I’ll admit that I was a little nervous (pitching in relief). When I saw I was missing high, I made adjustments. Once I got that first strike over, I got my confidence right there.”

Lakeshore (26-14) will attempt to repeat as Division 2 baseball champion when it faces Saginaw Swan Valley at 9 a.m. Saturday. Lakeshore also won Class B in 1990.

Thursday’s starting pitchers Connor Brawley of Lakeshore and Logan Wood of St. Mary’s were outstanding. Brawley allowed six hits, one walk and struck out seven in his 7 1/3 innings, and Wood went 8 2/3 and allowed two hits, three walks and struck out nine.

“It was crazy,” Brawley said. “The game flies by. I felt good out there. It was so hard (to come out). Our offense, we just compete. It’s been that way all season.”

Carmody went 1 2/3 innings to notch the victory, allowing no hits and one walk.

Catcher Bray Plomb and Cam Dalrymple started the 10th inning for Lakeshore with singles. A wild pitch put runners on second and third. Carmody singled to score the first run, and the second run scored on a wild pitch. Joel Brawley, Connor’s cousin, knocked in the third run with a bunt single.

St. Mary’s (28-13), the champion in 2015, had good chances to win the game in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings. The Eaglets had two runners in the seventh, but Connor Brawley recorded a strikeout to end the inning.

In the eighth, St. Mary’s loaded the bases and Alex Mooney lined out to right field to end the inning. In the ninth Carmody worked out of the jam to end the Eaglets’ last serious threat.

“There were many times we were against the ropes,” Lakeshore coach Mark Nate said. “They score, they win. We grinded it out.”

St. Mary’s is a young team, but coach Matt Petry gave no excuses. The Eaglets started four freshmen and four sophomores last season, so even though they have only four seniors on the roster, two of whom start, Petry said his players have been in a number of big games.

“We made the Catholic League final this year,” he said. “These guys have played in Comerica Park. We expected to make a good run in the tournament. We’re excited for the future. but today stinks. We hit the ball hard. We had runners in scoring position.”

Click for the full box score.

VIDEO: The only run Stevensville Lakeshore would need came on this bloop single by Oli Carmody, which drove in Ryan Soper.

Saginaw Swan Valley 3, DeWitt 1

Swan Valley scored three runs in the first inning, and that’s all the Vikings needed to earn their first championship game appearance since 2001, when they defeated Wyoming Park, 4-1, for the Division 2 title.

In the first frame, Swan Valley (33-8-3) loaded the bases with one out, and Easton Goldensoph was hit by a pitch to force in the first run Logan Pietz drove in the next with a single, and the third run scored on a wild pitch.

DeWitt (27-7) scored its run in the top of the sixth inning on a Jace Preston single.

Goldensoph’s brother, Avery, a freshman, went the distance for the victory. He allowed six hits, walked two and struck out five.

“We’re excited to be back,” Swan Valley first-year coach Craig Leddy said. “These kids are young. They don’t know what pressure is. They drive me crazy, they’re so loose.”

Nolan Knauf allowed just two hits in going all six innings for DeWitt. The one bad inning did him in.

“Nothing’s promised,” DeWitt coach Alan Shankel said. “Credit goes to Swan Valley. They made the plays. We were knocking on the door all game.”   

Click for the full box score.

VIDEO: Swan Valley scored all of its runs in the first inning; Easton Goldensoph is hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to force in the first run, and then Logan Pietz delivered an RBI single.

PHOTOS: (Top) Stevensville Lakeshore’s Logan Morrow makes his move toward the plate in Thursday’s first Division 2 Semifinal. (Middle) Swan Valley’s Avery Goldensoph drives a pitch during the second Semifinal at McLane Stadium.

Algonac Diamond Teams Hope Matching Successes Lead to East Lansing

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

May 24, 2023

Kenna Bommarito remembers how many people were in East Lansing a year ago to support her and her Algonac softball teammates at the Division 3 Semifinals.

Bay & ThumbSo, she has an idea of how many people from the town would show up if both the softball and baseball teams were there this time around.

“I think everyone would be,” the junior pitcher said.

There’s a decent possibility that Bommarito’s theory could be tested. The Muskrats softball team is ranked No. 2 in Division 3, and Tuesday night clinched the first Blue Water Area Conference title in program history.

That came one night after the baseball team – ranked No. 1 in Division 3 – also won its first BWAC title. The BWAC was created in 2002, and Algonac was an original member.

“It’s amazing – this town loves it,” said senior baseball player Tyler Schultz. “We’ve got a small community, and everybody is tagging along. I remember last year, a couple of our final postseason games, that was the most people I’ve ever seen at a game. All of the sports here are starting to build up. We have athletes all around the school. I think as time goes on, I think each sport will get better and better.”

Bommarito’s imagined scenario nearly played out a year ago, as both teams made their deepest postseason run.

While the softball team was making its historic run to the Semifinal, the baseball team was making one of its own, advancing to the Quarterfinal for the first time in program history.

Matthew Rix slides into home as a throw comes in.The baseball team’s movement toward this started with the 2017 and 2018 seasons, when the Muskrats won back-to-back District titles.

“We had a couple DI (college) players, and when you have those players come through, it generates excitement through the youth,” said Algonac baseball coach Scott Thaler, who took over the program in 2017. “It’s been a trickle-down effect from that initial first two years. That really set the bar. We’ve had some really good baseball players come through, and I have a great staff.”

Thaler had stressed back then that he wanted to build a program at Algonac and not have it be a flash in the pan. That certainly looks like it’s happening, and not just because his Muskrats are winning and sitting atop the state rankings.

Algonac – which has fewer than 500 students in the entire school – has junior varsity and freshman baseball teams. Thaler also said there are 25 eighth graders coming into the program next year.

“I think that when I was smaller in little league, we didn’t really have that where we went out on the field with the varsity players,” said junior pitcher Josh Kasner. “Now, that’s gotten a lot better. A lot of the smaller kids we see around town, they know who we are and about (the program).”

Of course, talent wasn’t enough to get there. Thaler needed to instill belief in his team in order to help the younger generation see what was possible.

“I was a (football assistant) coach under Scott Barnhart, and one of the things we preached to the kids back then is ‘To believe in the things you haven’t seen before,’” Thaler said. “That’s the mantra we brought to them last year, ‘Why not us?’ Just because it hasn’t happened before here doesn’t mean you can’t believe in that. We had to get them to believe.”

The Quarterfinal run provided proof beyond the belief for the Muskrats, and then the Michigan High School Baseball Coaches Association added to it all, naming Algonac the preseason No. 1 team in Division 3.

Luckily for Thaler, his team took it in stride.

The Muskrats huddle up in the baseball outfield.“I mean, it was a great feeling, but part of me had some doubts,” Schultz said “We’ve got some younger kids on the team, and I thought that maybe they might look at that and might get complacent, but me and some of the other seniors have done a good job of keeping all of these guys looking forward. We’ve still got one goal, and that’s to finish (with a Finals title).”

While the softball team didn’t enter the season with a No. 1 ranking, the expectations were certainly there, as was a new target on its back.

But bigger than both was motivation following a walk-off loss to Millington in the Semifinal.

“I think it just shows us that in those big games with those types of teams, you can never say never,” said first-year softball coach Natalie Heim, who was an assistant on last year’s team. “You really have to bear down. That Millington team that beat us, they fought hard. But I definitely think it fuels us more to get back.”

The softball program’s rise may have seemed more sudden to those on the outside, but senior Ella Stephenson said it had been bubbling for a while.

“My sophomore year, we had some talent for sure,” she said. “We had a really good season, but not as good as junior and senior year. The class above me was really talented. But they kind of turned the program around in my eighth-grade year, and it kind of kept building from there.”

During Stephenson’s sophomore season, the Muskrats lost a tough District game against Richmond, which went on to win the Division 3 Finals title. Not only are the Blue Devils a common early postseason opponent for the Muskrats, they’re also a conference rival. As is Almont. And Croswell-Lexington. And … It’s a brutal conference.

The Algonac softball team stands together for a team photo.So, much like the baseball team, even during the softball team’s historic 2022 season, winning the conference this spring proved to be tougher than making a deep postseason run.

That made Tuesday night’s sweep of North Branch to clinch the BWAC that much sweeter.

“Honestly, it’s a rush of just happiness,” Bommarito said. “We’re all so excited and just can’t believe we did it. We just played game-by-game today, and really took it one pitch, one out at a time.”

Not only has the BWAC prepared the Muskrats for the possibility of another deep postseason run, it helped keep them focused throughout the season.

“I think a lot of teams don’t have that luxury of facing the best competition during the season,” Heim said. “I think it keeps (the Muskrats) not looking too far ahead. We try to have that approach of one game at a time, one inning at a time, one pitch at a time. It helps with having goals that are a little tougher to achieve. Winning our league, it’s tough. It’s not an easy feat. Especially after last year’s success, it would have been easy to look ahead.”

Now, with league titles secured, both teams can focus on their ultimate goals and the postseason that is directly in front of them.

All with the hope that their similarities – on top of the league titles, both teams are 29-2 as of Wednesday, and both have a University of Michigan-bound player (Kasner and Stephenson) – continue through the third weekend of June with matching trips to East Lansing.

“That’d be unreal. That would be so cool,” Stephenson said. “We all have really good friendships on the baseball and softball teams. Our records are identical. We both won our conference. It’s just really cool. I’m really happy for their success, and ours, too.”

Paul CostanzoPaul Costanzo served as a sportswriter at The Port Huron Times Herald from 2006-15, including three years as lead sportswriter, and prior to that as sports editor at the Hillsdale Daily News from 2005-06. He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Genesee, Lapeer, St. Clair, Sanilac, Huron, Tuscola, Saginaw, Bay, Arenac, Midland and Gladwin counties.

PHOTOS (Top) Algonac pitcher Kenna Bommarito makes her move toward the plate during last season’s Division 3 Semifinal against Millington. (2) Matthew Rix slides into home as a throw comes in. (3) The Muskrats huddle up in the baseball outfield. (4) The Algonac softball team stands together for a team photo. (Baseball photos and softball team photo courtesy of the Algonac athletic department.)